O'FALLON — The death of a person in St. Charles County from the coronavirus is the 10th in Missouri, and as the number of confirmed cases escalates, some of the state's biggest hospitals are being forced to “examine what all our options are” to maintain enough protective equipment.
The latest death was reported Friday night. Meanwhile, the number of confirmed cases in Missouri jumped by 168 on Friday to 838.
In St. Louis, nurses and other front-line medical workers at BJC HealthCare, SSM Health, Mercy and a veterans hospital told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that hospital leaders are asking some staff to reuse masks, put limits on sanitation materials and set new policies on use of protective gear.
“With the unknown of what’s coming, and knowing that we’re seeing places across the country running into shortages, we have to examine what all our options are — to use our supplies and our PPE when necessary and appropriate, conserving it when that is also appropriate,” Mercy spokesman Joe Poelker told the newspaper. “That’s a big task.”
A doctor at St. Mary’s Hospital in St. Louis tested positive and is quarantined at home, SSM Health said. A statement said the doctor has not seen patients at the hospital since March 16 and did not show symptoms while at work.
St. Louis Mayor Lyda Krewson said on Twitter that projections from the region’s three biggest health care providers suggest the spread of cases could slow in mid- to late-April. But she wrote that “so much depends on all of us staying home as much as we can. That’s why we need a statewide order.”
Republican Gov. Mike Parson has banned gatherings of more than 10 people but has declined to issue a statewide stay-at-home order.
During a news conference Saturday, Parson defended his handling of the crisis, noting he has issued five executive orders, activated the National Guard and taken many other steps.
“Since January we have been preparing for this,” Parson said. “And we had a plan and we're implementing that plan.”
Confirmed cases have been reported since Friday at three additional nursing homes in the St. Louis region, according to local media reports. On Thursday, confirmed cases were reported for four residents and two employees at Life Care Center of St. Louis. Three residents and an employee also have tested positive at a facility in St. Charles.
Three residents at a Springfield assisted living center died from confirmed cases, and the Springfield-Greene County Health Department said Friday that a woman in her 90s died at the Morningside East assisted-living center before the other women at the center died. The agency said the woman wasn't tested but it considers her a COVID-19 victim due to her close contact with them. Four other people at the home have tested positive.
For most people, the virus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. But the virus has often proven dangerous and deadly at nursing homes. Older adults and those with existing health problems are particularly susceptible to more severe illness caused by the virus, including pneumonia.
Officials with two St. Louis police unions said Saturday that officers who work in the Traffic Safety Division were under quarantine after two tested positive for the coronavirus and others exhibited symptoms.
The Ethical Society of Police said officers have continued to make routine traffic stops during the pandemic.
“Those routine traffic stops placed officers and citizens in jeopardy,” a statement from the union said.
Police spokesman Sgt. Keith Barrett told the Post-Dispatch in a statement that the department does not discuss the health status of its employees.
In Kansas City, 80 inmates were released from the Jackson County jail over COVID-19 concerns. Earlier this week, about 150 inmates were released from St. Louis city and county jails combined.
The Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services announced Saturday that the state health lab will now test health care workers and first responders who have symptoms and have had close contact with a suspected coronavirus patient. The lab results are typically available within a day, while commercial lab results can take a week or more, the state said.